A holiday gift guide for the cigar novice

Frank Seltzer, Special to CNBC.com
Sometimes a cigar is just a ... good gift
Tomasz Wojcik | E+ | Getty Images

A good cigar can be a good gift choice for just about any guy on your list this year. So stop trying so hard to figure out what he really wants. Even nonsmokers like to play the cigar-smoking part every so often—say, at a poker game with buddies or while brandishing a goblet of Scotch. As holiday season runs short on time, a cigar can make your shopping burden a little lighter, too. But maybe you don't even know where to begin when it comes to the stogies in the tobacconist's humidor. There are some great gift options for everyone, from the cigar novice to the aficionado. But first, a little snooping is in order.

Cigars come in a variety of sizes (both lengths and diameters, called ring gauge—the higher the number, the bigger the cigar). They also range in strength from mild to full and in sizes from short and thin to fat and long. There are also infused cigars. If you are buying for a cigar aficionado, you need to find out what cigars he or she prefers—mild, medium or full—and notice how big the cigars are.

The following cigar gifts focus on many of the newest lines to hit the market in the past year and are either available online (though shipping times and price may vary site to site) or at your local tobacconist shop.

By Frank Seltzer, Special to CNBC.com
Posted 13 December 2013


Arturo Fuente Flor Fina 8-5-8
Fuente Flor Fina 858 cigars
Adam Jeffery | CNBC

For someone who appreciates more traditional and mild- to medium-bodied cigars, you cannot go wrong with the Arturo Fuente Flor Fina 8-5-8. This cigar uses a very tasty Cameroon wrapper over Dominican binder and fillers. Its size is more traditional, running 6.25 " x 47. Created by Carlos Fuente Sr. in honor of his father, Arturo Fuente, who died at age 85 in 1973, it was one of the earliest cigars for the company. Its longevity is a testament to its flavor.

Cost: $5.25 each/$131 box of 25

The Angry Santa
Angry Santa cigars
Image source: Santa CAO

If you are looking for a fun gift, Rick Rodriguez from CAO has something special for the holidays. He reblended CAO's La Traviata line using the same tobaccos but from a higher priming, giving the cigars a little more oomph. His seasonal packs are Angry Santa (natural) and Evil Snowman (maduro). The cigars are medium-plus in strength, with the Angry Santa using an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper over a broadleaf binder and Honduran and Nicaraguan fillers. The Evil Snowman uses Connecticut Broadleaf over a Honduran binder with Nicaraguan and Dominican fillers.

Cost: $6–$6.50 each/$84–$91 box of 14

Nat Sherman Timeless collection
Nat Sherman Timeless Dominican Collection
Adam Jeffery | CNBC

Nat Sherman has been a tobacconist and fixture in New York City since 1930. Last year the company brought out its Timeless collection of cigars, which placed in the top 10 cigars of the year. A Honduran wrapper is used over a Dominican binder and fillers from the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua. Medium in body, Cigar Aficionado says the combination has solid notes of cedar and espresso, with hints of dark chocolate and nutmeg.

Cost: $7–$9 each/$140–$180 box of 20

Herrera Esteli
Herrera Esteli Cabinet cigars from Nicaragua.
Adam Jeffery | CNBC

A cigar that debuted in late 2012 and early this year is most likely to show up on Top Cigars of the Year lists in the coming weeks. It is the Herrera Esteli. Willy Herrera blended the cigars using an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper over a Honduran binder and Nicaraguan fillers. Medium to full in body, it is the highest-rated cigar from Drew Estate, and its flavor is very Cubanesque.

Cost: $7.95–$10.35 each/$198.75–$258.75 box of 25

The Duck Commander
Duck Dynasty premium cigars.
Image source: Duck Commander Ted's Cigars

For those smokers who are fans of Duck Dynasty, there is a special cigar made in honor of and endorsed by the Duckmen. Called the Duck Commander and made by Ted's Cigars—which also makes Patron, Sam Adams, Grand Marnier and Maker's Mark cigars—it is a mild toro-size cigar (6 " x 50), and it uses Ecuadorian Habano for the wrapper over Dominican Piloto Cuban binder and Dominican and U.S. filler tobaccos.

Cost: about $10 each/$225 box of 25

Romeo
Romeo Special Editions
Frank Seltzer for CNBC

Romeo y Julieta is an old Cuban brand but known in the United States as a Dominican-made cigar. Most Romeo y Julietas are in the mild to medium range. Last year the makers revisited the brand with a stronger version, called Romeo by Romeo y Julieta. (It was one of Cigar Aficionado's top cigars of the year.) For the holidays, there is a special limited-edition Romeo in numbered presentation boxes using specially selected aged tobaccos. It is a bigger cigar, measuring 6 " x 60.

Cost: $12 each/$120 box of 10

Toast Across America charity pack
Cigar Family Charitable Foundation
Image source: Cigar Family Charitable Foundation

If you are charity-minded, the Fuentes and J.C. Newman families release special cigars every year to benefit the Cigar Family Charitable Foundation. The foundation does a lot of good work in the Dominican Republic. In this year's Toast Across America pack, the cigars are medium- to full-bodied. Both cigars are pyramids—one is Diamond Crown Black Diamond, and the other is Aniversario Destino al Siglo. These rare cigars are not available anywhere else, and every cent of the money (other than state taxes) goes to the charity.

Cost: $50 for two-pack

Cohiba Comador
Cohiba Comador
Image source: Comador Cigar

Cohiba is known as a high-end blend, and this year, in conjunction with Shawn "Jay Z" Carter, there is a new medium- to full-bodied complex super premium called Cohiba Comador. Handcrafted in the Dominican Republic, this toro, measuring 6" x 52, uses special tobaccos, including a Connecticut-grown Havana seed wrapper. Next year this cigar will be available in stores, but this holiday season it is available only on the company's website.

Cost: $30 each/$210 box of 7 (add a travel humidor for $140)

Savoy humidor
Savoy Humidor
Adam Jeffery | CNBC

Humidors keep cigars at the proper temperature and humidity. They are available in different price ranges and varying quality. Some of the less expensive ones may not keep the humidity at the proper levels. The Savoy brand is probably the most worry-free. The construction is excellent, and the humidification element is very simple to use. Humidors come in various sizes from ones and various woods. Obviously, the bigger the humidor, the higher the price.

Cost: $90–$525

Accessorizing your puffing
Xikar gift set.
Adam Jeffery | CNBC

One more thing. Now that you've got the cigars and humidor, it's time to remind you that no budding cigar aficionado would be complete without the pocket accessories—a lighter and a cutter, specifically. An accessory set makes for a nice, practical gift.

Xikar makes some of the best in the industry, especially when you consider the company's lifetime warranty. For this year's holiday season, the company has a nice combo pack. The set includes a titanium Xi3 double-bladed cutter for razor-sharp cuts, and a Vitara lighter, which not only provides a double jet flame but also has a built-in 7mm punch for those times when you forget the cutter or just want a punch instead of a cut.

Cost: $100–$110

Have cigar, will travel
Tobacco field for quality cigars near Santiago, Dominican Republic.
Peeter Vilsimaa | Photodisc | Getty Images

For the ultimate Walter Mitty cigar experience, there is the Pro Cigar Festival in the Dominican Republic. Held February 16-21, 2014, this event brings cigar smokers and cigar makers together. The number of attendees is strictly limited, so personal relationships are often forged. You get to visit the tobacco fields and factories but can also play golf, go to the beach or sail on a catamaran. Mostly, though, you eat, drink, smoke and party with the legends of the Dominican cigar industry.

Cost: $895, plus air and hotel

Where to find: The festival website